James 5:16-18 says,
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
Let’s think about this. It didn’t rain for 3 1/2 years because of one person’s prayer. The earth did not produce fruit until it was released to do so by the prayer of one person.
The author of James is emphatic in letting us know that Elijah was a normal person, just like us. He was prone to bouts of depression and fear even though he also performed one of the boldest moves in the Bible (the Baal altar incident), he had incredible supernatural experiences, and ran faster than a chariot at one point! We too may wax and wane in our passion and strength of faith, yet we are the ones God calls righteous and we are the ones whose prayers are effective.
How then, do we pray?
Prayer is not a formula. It is not passive, it is not a last resort, it is not in one direction, it is not a list, it is not a wish or a hope.Prayer is heartfelt communication with the God of the Universe. It is a two sided conversation of speaking and listening. Sometimes, it’s a tear. Sometimes it’s a groan. Sometimes it’s one word. Sometimes it’s many words with heightened volume. Whatever form it comes in, if it is from your heart and aimed at the God of the Universe, it is prayer, and it is a constant and real substance, called incense (Psalm 141:2), which is continually before His throne. Our prayers do not vanish with the evaporation of our breath. They are always before His Throne of Grace.
So what do we talk to Him about?
If we are saved, we have access to Him anytime, day or night. We can talk to Him out loud or privately within our minds. We can talk to Him about EVERYTHING!!! He says to come boldly, to give Him our problems and worries no matter how large or small. He says to ask for the impossible things and to be thankful for what He has already done for us. He desires for us to agree with Him for His will to be done on the earth, to pray corporately and alone. He wants us to be united when we pray, in one accord putting aside our different opinions. He calls us to pray for all people, even our enemies and for those in authority. He calls us to pray for our churches, our families, our schools, our bible study groups, to ask for protection from the evil one. He wants us to be honest when we pray, to tell Him about our day. His ears are open to hear what makes us happy, what makes us sad. He is eager for us to express our dreams and desires, our whole heart to Him.
We may say, “But if God already knows everything, why do we need to tell Him?” The answer is: intimacy. A wife may know basically what her husband does everyday. He gets up, has a cup of coffee, maybe spends some time with the Lord, walks the dog, eats breakfast, and goes to work. He comes home, eats dinner and hangs with the family for a bit then goes to bed. Of course God sees our lives and He does know the desires of our hearts, just like a wife probably know which things are preferable to her husband to have on the dinner menu. But when he tells her and explains WHY he likes those certain dinners and what he would like to try in the future, it changes everything. She gets a peek into his feelings and what makes him come alive. It makes her want to cook those dinners all the time and find more things that will please him!! It’s love on a whole different level. It’s a love that seeks to meet the heart’s desires!! This is what God wants to do with us! This is why He wants our hearts in prayer. He does not want to just observe us and automatically take care of us (Though He will because it’s His nature). He wants a relationship, a sharing of the hearts. He desires to be a constant companion in an ongoing conversation.
When I first became good friends with a woman named Jil, we bonded through email. We knew each other from church and were friends, but it really kicked into high gear when she moved to Texas. We constantly emailed and texted. We were in an ongoing conversation all the time. We were always checking our devices. This is exactly what “praying without ceasing” is like. It’s an ongoing, open ended conversation with the God who adores you!
But it’s not all about what He wants. It all starts with what He gives, how He comes to meet with us. God made the choice to send Jesus to become one of us, to take on our weakness, our pain, our rejection so that He could be a sympathetic and merciful advocate. The Bible says that Jesus has a prayer life, sitting at the right hand of the Father God, and He prays for us! (Rom. 8:34). That kind of love, that offer of real friendship makes me want to respond and make space for an authentic and intimate prayer life. We get intimacy. Out of that, we find identity, direction, wisdom, love, provision, all of the promises in the bible!! We receive restored relationships, bodies healed, joy, an inheritance, and authority over the enemy. God tells us things that He doesn’t tell everyone. We get the “treasures hidden in darkness”. We get to know Him and HIS WAYS (Isaiah 55:8). The list could never be exhaustive because He is not finite as we are.
I hope you feel encouraged to begin or continue seeking the Lord in prayer. I’ll leave you with Psalm 116:2 (NKJV), “ Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.”
What are you going to talk to Him about today?
Sharon Rhodes is a mom of three incredible boys and the wife of Allen. She’s passionate about prayer and evangelism and helped to pioneer the Agoura Campus of The City Church. She leads the Agoura Campus prayer team and also leads a City Group. If you’re passionate about prayer and would like to join Sharon, sign up for her City Group here.